Patients want more from community pharmacies in a post-pandemic culture.
The scope of pharmaceutical care continues to evolve beyond drug delivery. Two years into the pandemic, most independent and chain pharmaceutical professionals are operating at their full licensing level, providing clinical services such as influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations, drug therapy management (MTM), and more.
Given the projected shortage of doctors of up to 139,000 by 2033 and the fact that 44 million Americans live in medical “deserts”, this trend is expected to continue. But with new opportunities for pharmacy professionals come challenges, such as ensuring optimal reimbursement and compensation, partnering with health plans, and accountability for patient outcomes. Improving patient engagement and pharmacy licensing will help alleviate many of these challenges and increase revenues in 2022.
With that in mind, here are 5 things pharmacy professionals can improve and improve on:
1. Automate Solutions to Prevent Burnout
On the surface, engagement may appear to have little to do with burnout. But when pharmacy professionals don’t feel they have enough time to complete their daily work / assignments, patient relationships suffer.
Even before the pandemic, the burnout rate among clinical pharmacists was high: 61.2% according to one study. With a shortage of pharmacists and an increasing need for clinical care, not to mention COVID-19, stress is now a normal part of daily life among pharmacy professionals.
What is needed are better workforce management solutions, such as systems that can help automate repetitive tasks, facilitate collaboration in care and ensure that pharmacies are up to date on regulations, prescription monitoring programs (PMPs), synchronization of medications, insurance changes and prior authorization and other daily functions.
2. Collaborate and improve results
Doctors, payers and pharmacists agree on the importance of good collaboration, but they also understand the difficulty of coordinating care with multiple stakeholders.
Optimizing clinical care is not just about technology. It’s also about having a good relationship with clinical partners who can align on value-based care goals.
However, technology is an important consideration – the right pharmacy management system can facilitate real-time data exchange and improve communication and collaboration with providers, health plans and patients themselves. This type of harmony, in turn, contributes to better results.
3. Improve the telharmacy
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telemedicine in all healthcare facilities. But 2 years later, many pharmacies aren’t maximizing opportunities to virtually connect with patients.
Additionally, although most Americans have used telemedicine at least once since March 2020, fewer have engaged in virtual consultations with pharmacists. For example, only about a third of seniors (34%) reported using an online pharmacy during the peak of the pandemic in 2020.
It is time to move from a “stop gap” mode of relying on telemedicine as a temporary solution and embrace telharmacy as a permanent aspect of value-based care. The right telemedicine platform can synchronize existing pharmacy management solutions and support a wide variety of pharmacist-patient interactions: chronic care management (CCM), diabetes self-management training, drug therapy management, and so on.
4. Awareness about personalized vaccination
Vaccinations have evolved into a mainstay in pharmacies over the past 2 years, fueled in part by ongoing initiatives for COVID-19 vaccinations and booster vaccinations. In 2021, nearly 54 percent of Americans got the flu shot in a store, compared to the 2019-20 season (34.9 percent), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The fact that Americans are increasingly willing to get vaccinated in pharmacies, instead of doctors’ offices or clinics for urgent care, is a huge opportunity, but also a highly competitive one. Large pharmacies are already using sophisticated AI-powered platforms to create targeted email marketing campaigns for customers. Independent community pharmacies need to work with their supplier partners to explore patient engagement and digital marketing tactics, as well as phone calls and personal messages.
5. Expanded offers
With regulations governing pharmacy benefits managers and direct and indirect remuneration fees constantly changing, pharmacies will need to improve and expand their reach of services to engage patients and effectively improve overall care and experience.
As such, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Foundation recommends that pharmacies create a strategic plan to strengthen more areas beyond its traditional realms.
“The pharmacy will need to push the boundaries of containing drug costs into other patient-centered direct care areas that change the pharmacy’s impact on the value of healthcare,” notes the report. “Innovations, such as developing and contributing to new models of care (eg, direct patient care to specialist care, outpatient care, population health and care transitions) can become performance expectations for pharmacy leaders.”
To move on
Given the weight of these recommendations, community pharmacies have their work cut out for them.
By focusing on strengthening operations, technology and communication in 2022, independent pharmacies will be better equipped to handle any changes in volume or demand and engage patients. This, in turn, will help community pharmacies remain competitive with the retail giants.
About the author
Alex Miguel, PharmDis SVP, GM Enhanced Medication Services at Transaction Data Services.